Tshombe, Moise Kapenda

1917–1969
Prime Minister of Democratic Republic of Congo

Moise Kapenda Tshombe was one of the first leaders of CONGO (KINSHASA). Born in Katanga province in what was then the colony of Belgian Congo, he was trained as a Methodist preacher and a teacher and later became a merchant. In 1958 he helped found the Confederation of Tribal Associations of Katanga, an organization aimed at protecting the interests of ethnic groups in Katanga province. Tshombe took a leading role in his country’s INDEPENDENCE MOVEMENT. In meetings with colonial authorities in 1960, he recommended a system of government in which each province would have almost total autonomy.

Tshombe, Moise Kapenda

When the colony gained independence as the Democratic Republic of Congo in June 1960, Tshombe was elected president of the provincial government of Katanga. Soon afterward he proclaimed Katanga’s withdrawal from the central government headed by Patrice LUMUMBA. Lumumba was assassinated the following year.

When UNITED NATIONS troops were sent to control the growing political unrest in Congo in 1963, Tshombe fled to Spain. One year later the Congolese government asked him to return, made him prime minister, and ordered him to put down rebellions in the eastern part of the country. He succeeded but was then fired by president Joseph Kasavubu. The political struggle that followed led to a military coup by MOBUTU SESE SEKO, and Tshombe again fled to Europe. While attempting to regain power in a coup in the late 1960s, he was arrested and taken to a prison in Algeria, where he died.